Wayne State students have a new, robotic option if they choose to have food delivered to campus this fall.
WSU has partnered with Grubhub and Starship Technologies, a San Francisco-based robotics company, to bring the service to WSU.
WSU Dining Services Registered District Manager Alex MacKenzie said the idea of implementing the program on campus arose in the spring.
“We wanted to offer students and the Wayne State community a new and convenient way to order food on campus,” said Mackenzie.
Students can currently order groceries for automatic delivery to any dorm on campus from Panda Express, Tenders Love and Chicken, Taco Bell, and Subway.
Travis Price, senior strategic partnership manager at GrubHub, said Grubhub and Starship have partnered in recent months to bring the program to campuses nationwide.
“…we will focus on this closed ecosystem and campus approach. For us we try to enable accessibility and when we think about deliveries one of the biggest difficulties we encounter in a campus environment especially with right of way is getting delivery drivers and it is quite difficult to deliver food to students and guests” said Price.
Price said they will launch their partnership on four campuses across the United States, with WSU being the only campus in Michigan.
Michael Cichowski, a sophomore in business administration and a predental major, said he believes Starship will help ease fears related to COVID-19 and help with challenges in the service industry.
“I think that’s a pretty cool service given the challenges that COVID has brought, such as a labor shortage,” Cichowski said. “With this new service, the risk of exposure (to COVID-19) will be completely eliminated, and it will likely be faster than (the delivery was) before.”
The delivery robots are well programmed, Price said.
“Usually we try to keep the distance within a mile radius… and with the robots we usually try to keep them in an area where they don’t go too far, but they’re equipped with a number of safety features…”
According to Price, the robots have the ability to cross intersections, recognize pedestrians, give way and identify vehicles. The robots are isolated and can also communicate with each other to get timely commands on where to go.
If a student doesn’t get their food, Mackenzie said they have a few different options.
“The food is returned to the place where the food was ordered. Students have the option to pick up on site. If they can’t find the robot upon delivery, tracking is available in the app,” Mackenzie said.
Price said Starship employees are on campus to help robots when they get stuck or fail.
Social work major Sadie Shaw said she wishes the university had invested in other areas of the campus, such as the gym, rather than the new delivery service.
“I think Starship sounds like a great idea, but I could see that the money going into launch is being appreciated elsewhere in the university,” Shaw said.
Cichowski said he has no plans to use the new program.
“…I think these third party delivery services are not reliable, consistent and efficient,” Cichowski said. “Why do they pay for delivery when you can grab takeout!”
Shaw said the new service will be beneficial to her when she is away from on-campus restaurants.
“I would use this device! Most of my classes are spread far across campus, so I don’t have time to get food during the day,” Shaw said.
Cichowski said he thinks this will be a service that will see widespread use on campus.
“This is definitely not a service that we needed at WSU, but I know it’s heavily used by the students who attend the university because of this [convenience]’ said Cichowski.
Katherine Stozicki is News Editor at The South End. She can be reached at [email protected].
Cover photo by Shawntay Lewis, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The South End. She can be reached at [email protected]